He's easily the most well known soccer player the US has ever seen. He holds US soccer records for most international goals (57), most assists (58), and starts (141). He became a household name when he scored "The Goal Heard Around The World" against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup.

And now, in what would've been his last World Cup, Landon Donovan is not going to Brazil.

Donovan's omission sent shockwaves after Thursday's surprise release of the final 23-man roster. In what coach Jurgen Klinsmann described as the "toughest decision in [his] coaching career", Donovan was one of seven players dropped from the 30-man camp currently training at Stanford University.

The downsides are clear. It deprives a World Cup squad that's generally lacking in international experience (twelve players on the roster have under 20 caps) of a veteran attacking presence (only four players with over 70 caps). It opens questions about who could provide a spark off the bench as the US faces a tough group stage against Ghana, Portugal, and Germany. And for Donovan himself, being dropped prevents him from appearing in his fourth World Cup, in what feels like an unsatisfying end to his international career.

In the spirit of being fair: if we're looking purely at the last two years, we can't admit the move comes as a complete shock. With Klinsmann demanding players push themselves and challenge themselves, Donovan's decision to take a multi-month sabbatical during World Cup qualifying obviously damaged his reputation. He had to fight his way back onto the team during the 2013 Gold Cup, and has had a less than spectacular 2014 so far with the LA Galaxy. It's perfectly reasonable to believe other players may be ahead of him in form, fitness, or perceived mentality.

But that assessment can only work if all players on the roster are held to the same standard. Is Julian Green, the 18-year-old Bayern Munich reserve with three minutes of top flight soccer to his name, deserving of a ticket? How about Timothy Chandler, who repeatedly turned down caps during qualifying? Or DeAndre Yedlin, the Seattle Sounders rookie, who only started getting call-ups this year?

In a Friday press conference, Klinsmann put forward his belief that this is the squad that will get him the best performance in Brazil. He also tried valiantly to convince everyone that it's not a cut, but merely a standby list - should anything happen to any of the forwards before the trip to Brazil, Donovan could find himself back in camp. Klinsmann refused to cite specifics as to why Donovan didn't make the final roster, only that other players were "slightly ahead of him".

In a statement on his Facebook page, Landon responded to the snub with class (and sadness):

To my fans,

It has been an honor and privilege to have represented the US National Team in three World Cups. I was looking forward to playing in Brazil and, as you can imagine, I am very disappointed with today’s decision. Regardless, I will be cheering on my friends and teammates this summer, and I remain committed to helping grow soccer in the US in the years to come.

Thanks for all your support,


The USMNT will wrap up camp later this week before a series of tune-up friendlies in San Francisco (vs. Azerbaijan on May 27th), the NYC area (vs. Turkey on June 1st), and Jacksonville (vs. Nigeria on June 7th). The twenty-three players headed to Brazil to represent the US include:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (8): DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Nürnberg), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

The 2014 FIFA World Cup begins June 12th.